As Obiano Starts His Last Dance



By Alex Otti;

His Excellency, Chief Willie Maduaburochukwu Obiano, FCA, FCIB, Akpokuodike Aguleri, dances very well. In a recent piece in his column titled, “Lessons for Nigeria from Anambra” Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, OFR, argued that one of the reasons Obiano trounced his opponents in the November 18, 2017 Governorship election, where he won in all the 21 local governments in the state, is his humility. Mazi Ohuabunwa noted that he demonstrated this by the fact that he, Obiano, dances to, and with, his people. Even though the jury is still out as to whether dancing speaks to humility, there is no denying the fact that humility, which is lacking in a lot of people, is critical in endearing leaders to their people.

Today, we are not talking about dancing and dance steps. We are discussing the enduring legacies that Governor Obiano would leave behind as he starts his second and last term as Executive Governor of Anambra State.

As earlier noted, Obiano was engaged in a fierce battle to get a second term in office. The first was an intra-party crisis that started with some dissatisfied members of the National Working Committee of the All Progressive Grand Alliance, (APGA), the platform under which Obiano ran and won the election, suspending the National Chairman of the Party, Chief Victor Ike Oye, and replacing him with someone else. The leadership of the Party rejected this insurrection and in response, applied a big hammer on the “mutineers”, expelling them from the Party. The expelled members subsequently regrouped and appointed an Acting Chairman in the person of Chief Martin Agbaso. To give legal teeth to their action, they secured a high court judgement from Enugu, which recognised Agbaso as the Chairman of the Party. This started a fierce legal battle which is still on till this day. The court judgement was reversed by several judgements from courts of concurrent jurisdiction, but what cleared the way for the primaries to hold was the judgement of the Court of Appeal sitting in Enugu that reversed the original High Court judgement. Governor Obiano thereafter proceeded to win the primaries unopposed thus clearing the way for the main election to eventually hold.

Prior to the main election, there were a lot of scheming by the opposition. You could hear some of the candidates boast that they were going to sack Obiano. The major contender, the All Progressive Congress and its candidate, scared the hell out of everyone, with its reference to deep pockets and the Federal might. PDP’s Oseloka Obaze, with the support of the former Governor, Peter Obi, was all over the place convinced that he would win the election. Days before the election, the Governor’s security details were recalled, which in some way gave an impression that the government at the centre was going to fight dirty. With protests from the Governor and other interested parties, the security details were restored. The election was eventually held on November 18, 2017 amidst fear and tension. INEC, it must be said, did a fantastic job of organising a free and fair election that produced, for the first time in the South East, results that were not challenged by any of the contenders, (though I read there was a pretender who went to court and the matter was promptly dismissed). The rest, like they say, is now history.

On Saturday, March 17, 2018, Obiano took the oath of office in Awka for a second term. The well organised event was attended by a lot of people from within and outside the state. Going by the speech the Governor made, one was left in no doubt that he knows his onions and has his priorities right. There was clarity about what Obiano wanted to leave behind by the time he would be ending his second tenor in the next four years. His zeal, his patriotism and his passion for service to his people, were palpable and simply infectious.

It is important to state here that second term for a Governor is never a right. That one Governor did a second term in office is not enough reason for another who was a non-performer in his first term to seek a second term. I don’t think there should be any argument about this. Second term should also not be seen as an opportunity to correct the ills of the past. There is this joke, (and I really hope it is a joke) about a former Governor’s father who was campaigning for a second term for his son. He was quoted as saying that since there was agreement amongst the people of the state that his son failed in his first term, then, everyone should support him for a second term. His logic was that just like in an examination, if someone failed, the natural thing was for him to repeat! 

I believe that Obiano was rewarded for his performance in his first term, to which everyone, including his enemies conceded. This is unlike his counterpart in a sister state in the South East who recently spent tax payers’ money to assemble a miserable collection of compromised party leaders, lazy-minded elite, coerced and defeated traditional rulers and hapless marabouts, native doctors and ritualists, all to endorse him for a second term. Meanwhile, this said Governor is owing over 8 months salaries to civil servants, teachers and other government workers, and over 2 years of pensioners’ stipends. In this “propaganda-assisted” state, governance only happens in the social media where government agents tout non-existent projects as their “giant strides”. A few of the articulate party leaders who attended the shameful ‘endorsement’ event, alluded to the failure of the Governor, but were quick to blame it on the numerous court cases against him, which, according to them distracted him from his work. They, however, failed to say what the Governor did that landed him in court. The rest of the people at the event argued that because his two predecessors who came from different zones did two tenors, their non-performing ‘son’ should be allowed to go for a second tenor, otherwise, the heavens would come down. He would need to repeat the examination he failed woefully. What a tragedy! 

The good and refreshing news is that in Obiano’s case, he earned his second tenor and Anambra people kept faith with him and elected him accordingly. It is a known fact that in recent times, South East states have not been particularly lucky with leadership. This is where Obiano has his work cut out for him as he has to use this second term to immortalise his name. In the South East, there are a few names that are always in people’s lips for good reasons. The likes of Nnamdi Azikiwe, Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, Michael Okpara, Akanu Ibiam, Sam Mbakwe and Alex Ekwueme, to mention but a few, are remembered for their qualitative leadership to their people. I have no doubt that Obiano is well on his way to joining this exclusive league. 

In order to make this league, he should work towards institutionalising what he has done and what he is doing. This becomes necessary to ensure that no charlatan shows up after him to dismantle his legacy. I must admit that this is a very tough call given our penchant to destroy and the fact that it is easier to destroy than to build. Still on this, there should be a process that throws up the best in the state for governance at all levels. This is the only way to permanently keep mediocrity away. Care must be taken to ensure that the succession planning we are talking about does not descend into godfatherism, which is the bane of many states in the country.

I am of the opinion that the most important task facing Obiano does not lie in Anambra. It resides in the entire South East. Simply put, it is about replicating the successes in leadership and governance recorded in Anambra in other states of the South East. Leadership is urgently required in the South East if the region must get its act together and achieve its potential. Beyond the infrastructural decay and deindustrialisation of the entire region, there is the ravaging unemployment and restiveness of the youth. The crime rate remains very high as abject poverty, existing alongside pockets of wealth, seems to be masked. Individually, the people seem to be very successful, but collectively, the region is a complete failure! Furthermore, we seem to have engaged the reverse gear politically. I had a discussion with a friend from Adamawa recently who had this to say “in 1979, the South East produced the No. 2 man in the country. In 1999, they produced the No 3 man, in 2007 and 2011, they produced the No. 4 man and in 2015, they managed to retain the No. 4 man against the wishes of the powers that be. If care is not taken, in 2019, they will produce no one”. He attributed this to the falling quality of the politics the Igbos play in the country. Of more significance is the little impact the Igbo in leadership have on the generality of the people as against individual selfish interests.

For selfish reasons, some people have made arguments about ‘mainstreaming’ the South East. While I have no problems with this, I am concerned that they do not understand that power is about negotiation from a position of strength. To negotiate well, you must bring something to the table. When you show up empty handed, at the negotiation table, you are likely to end up “as part of the meat to be shared, rather than part of the people to share the meat”. It is against this background that I dare say that the South East has little or no influence in the so called major parties in the country. Those from the zone, who are prominent in those parties, are what is called peripherals in technology language. The leadership that I will like Obiano to embrace is to ensure that APGA goes beyond Anambra to control other parts of the South East. This is an opportunity that Peter Obi apparently missed. Obiano must seize the moment to ensure the emergence of APGA governments in all the South East states. This is not the kind of project that has not been done before. Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu won election under the platform of AD in 1999 and 2003. After his second term, he held on to and expanded that platform which became AC, ACN and eventually merged with other parties to form APC which is the ruling party in the country today. Had he jumped ship like most of our politicians are known to do, his party would not be in power today. 

As I was concluding this piece, someone forwarded me a post by a mutual friend, Chief Sonny Oruche. I will quote excerpts from this message that I consider apt and fitting for this discourse. “We must not always be in a winning party. We must have strategic alliances, build consensus across the entire nation, make friends of our neighbours and not hate speeches about other ethnic groups….. Our selfishness and money at all cost politics, cannot lead us anywhere. Now is the time for some of us to fill the gap and change the negative narrative of Ndigbo ‘politics of food is ready’. I can say without fear of contradiction that the OBJ and GEJ administrations were very benevolent to Ndigbo, in terms of political appointments in key positions, especially in the banking and finance sector. What the occupants made of it is totally different from what Awolowo did in his position as finance minister in the late 60s and 70s. After the First and Second Republics, Ndigbo have not presented serious selfless and purposeful leaders, particularly at State and LGA levels. If you stand on Aburi with these third rate politicians, from Igbo land, we shall collapse in no time. We can only stand on Aburi on the foundation of men of character, courage and competence. Ndigbo are better and greater than where we are. Ndigbo are too big to be small.”

You may not agree with some of the points made by Oruche. It is your right to disagree, but the truth remains that it summarises the sorry state of the Igbo nation that is fast losing grip and relevance. I had argued elsewhere that a major part of our problem is that we seem to have left politics in the hands of jobless people who have no track record in doing anything else. These jobless people consolidate their hold on power with our money and reproduce themselves in less competent successors who they can control. Some other regions have transited from this, most part of the South East hasn’t. It is this assignment that this column wants to drop on the laps of Obiano using the instrumentally of the party, APGA. Given his pedigree as a thoroughbred professional, I have no doubt that he is capable of delivering on this. It is also important to note that it is in the interest of Anambra APGA and the party in general, to ensure the right leadership is put in place in the other states where the party stands to win power. The fallouts of the decay in neighbouring states will always rub off on Anambra if not properly addressed.  In fact, it is the way to ensure that APGA survives and thrives as a party of national relevance. This time calls for clear headed and selfless thinking.